The Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee (SUILC) was excited to present their Annual Urban Indigenous Leadership Award to an inspiring Métis leader this year!
SUILC annually recognizes individuals or groups with long-standing leadership and exceptional dedication to the urban Indigenous community in Surrey. SUILC is the collective voice of the urban Indigenous population in Surrey and advocates on all their behalf.
The award recipient for 2020 is Brittney Bertrand. Born and raised in Surrey, and still currently a resident, Brittney is an Indigenous leader who is passionate about her Métis identity and raising awareness about the issues facing Métis people. In receiving this year’s Urban Indigenous Leadership award, Brittney said:
“I feel honored to be recognized as a leader in my community. It is a privilege to serve my community and be recognized for this work. I am blessed to have an incredible team supporting me. Seeing others empowered and succeeding is the greatest reward of being a leader.”
In 2016, Brittney was recognized by Métis Youth British Columbia (MYBC) as one of five Métis Youth Role Models. As a recent graduate from Douglas College’s Child and Youth Care Counselor program, specializing in Indigenous Youth and Families, Brittney has applied her skills and knowledge from her education within her Youth Program Coordinator role at Métis Nation British Columbia. She has led countless programs and events; giving Métis youth the opportunities to connect with their culture and grow leadership skills of their own.
When asked about Brittney’s leadership, Keenan McCarthy, a SUILC CO-Chair, responded “In Surrey, the Métis community makes up 45% of the growing urban Indigenous community. The Métis are the largest cultural group of Indigenous peoples in Surrey and yet they are often invisible and unrecognized. Through Brittney’s inspiring leadership and unwavering commitment to Métis cultural engagement, she is known to build community and strengthen Métis visibility and identity in Surrey.”
Brittney also brings unique awareness in her leadership role. She grew up in a cycle of poverty herself and is a young mother of two children in Surrey. Brittney knows what it takes to fight against systemic issues of poverty which prevent Indigenous youth in Surrey from achieving their full potential.
As a young mother, Brittney turned towards organizations such as the Youth Unlimited’s Programs, Thrive and Young Families in Surrey in search of mentorship and guidance towards her educational and employment goals. She went on to graduate from the Young Families program and started volunteering in this program to support young mothers, who were in similar situations as she once was in. In conversation with Brittney about her experience as an Indigenous leader in Surrey, Brittney expressed:
“Being a leader is not about being the best. It’s about empowering others to be their best. My life’s work is about empowering Métis youth to not just survive but to THRIVE in this world, to stand tall and be proud of who they are as a Métis person. Whether they have been connected to their culture their entire lives or are just reclaiming it, don’t be afraid to share your story because you never know what piece of your journey could empower someone else to grow and move forward.”
Brittney’s determination, strength, and compassion has not gone unnoticed. In the eyes of many Métis youth and the urban Indigenous community in Surrey, Brittney is seen as a role model and a true inspiration.
For more information about SUILC, please visit surreyindigenousleadership.ca or email us at IndigenousLeadership@surrey.ca